Thursday, 7 January 2010

Storm In A Casket

Grey clouds and rain were very appropriate for such an occasion. Winds howled and quite spoiled Sophia’s very expensive outfit.

Sheets of driving rain and rumbling threats of thunder only seemed to highlight Hugh’s feelings. He was not a happy bunny. He stood at the graveside watching the proceedings but deep in thought.

Sophia, the widow. She suited the role, he thought. Elegant and suitably distressed. Of the witnesses here present, only he knew what a good actress she was.

She was no more distressed than the priest. Probably less so - the priest at least seemed like a genuine and decent sort. Also, the clergyman was not in line for inheriting a fortune.

She was a wicked woman, Sophia, but he wasn’t in a position to tell anyone here what he had found out.

Hugh had found out all about Sophia’s plans but, tragically, too late to prevent this funeral.

Sophia’s marriage had been a stormy one, both the bride and groom being of a volatile nature but, like everyone else, Hugh had believed it to be basically sound. How wrong could you be?

About five years into the marriage, Sophia had had an affair. Her husband didn’t find out until much later but it was the beginning of the end for him all the same.

As with many affairs, Sophia had fully intended to have her cake and eat it. Being married to a wealthy businessman suited her wallet, but the novelty of his, somewhat preremptory, lovemaking soon wore off and Bernard, their chauffeur, had furnished the missing elements admirably. However, she had not bargained for falling for her amorous young swain and he with her.

Hugh shook his head sadly at the thought of the deception she had wrought.

It had been so convincing, the devoted wife bit, that everyone who knew the Armstrongs were almost envious of their relationship, fiery though it sometimes was.

Sophia was a beautiful and cultured woman, she could have had the pick of most of their male friends and acquaintances. They were all in love with her. Certainly he had been in love with her himself. If only he had known then what sort of woman she really was.

He was still not sure when they had decided to rid themselves of the inconvenient Mr. Armstrong, but he suspected, in retrospect, it had been about nine or ten months before.

Sophia had had the idea of poisoning her husband but was such an inept cook that he had refused to eat the dish she had specially prepared for him, their cook having been given the night off. It had tasted vile and so he had eaten only enough, of god only knew what, to give him a bad stomach for a few days afterwards..

Then she had arranged a tripwire at the top of the stairs, removing it swiftly as he lay unconscious at the bottom.

Unfortunately for her, he had survived this assault but much to her relief, had been able to remember nothing of this incident afterwards.

His car was the next target. Bernard was an expert on the workings of them and arranged for a vital bit of the steering to snap on the next journey down the winding road of the mountain on which they lived.

As events turned out, her husband was not at the wheel at the time. Bernard had been a whiz with motors but otherwise was not a bright boy. He simply forgot. Until he tried to take a bend halfway down the mountain, then he remembered. Briefly.

After that, it had become a point of principle with Sophia. Her husband must die. She had to avenge her lost love.

Hugh studied the faces of the mourners at the grave. Sophia, all sniffs and lace handkerchief, sympathetically supported on one elbow by Sharpe, erstwhile junior partner at Armstrongs. It hadn’t taken that obsequious toad long to start sniffing around the rich widow.

Carole Smathers, the company secretary looked genuinely upset, pale and drawn in her black suit. He’d never noticed before what an attractive girl she really was and , apparently, she was loyal too.

Graeme Batchelor, the deceased’s personal assistant looked grim and Hugh caught a malevolent glance toward Sharpe. It would appear that Hugh wasn’t the only one to distrust the junior partner.

There had been a full Catholic Mass at the church and it had been interesting to see who had attended and their individual reactions to the bereavement. No-one had noticed Hugh slip away, like a shadow, halfway through the service. The will reading would be after the internment and he had an important job to do before returning in time for the burial.

He had completed his task, got back in time and had watched the graveside rites with mixed feelings but at least he had been able to right a few wrongs. It was just a shame he had not been able to turn back the clock and saved a life.

Yes, the stormy weather had expressed Hugh’s feelings, but he was feeling better now, more at peace.

The spiritual medium he had consulted had gone to the solicitor’s office and left explicit instructions with the stunned solicitor, John Betts, who against his logical nature, couldn’t doubt the irrefutable proof of Hugh’s evidence. John had been his lifelong friend and trusted legal advisor, no-one knew him better.

The will had been duly changed and provable information was left for the police, and anyone else who may be interested, regarding the cause of death.

There were going to be a few open mouths at John Betts’ office in about twenty minutes time. He allowed himself a wry smile. It was just a pity he wouldn’t be there to see them, he’d have liked that. As it was, his freedom was starting to be somewhat stifled by the pine casket in which he watched his body being lowered into the cold, wet, earth.

And at the last words of the priest, he, Hugh Bartholemew Armstrong felt his spirit melt into the ether.

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